Written by Daniella Litvak
When you think of Shakespeare’s plays, As You Like It doesn’t immediately come to mind. If the list is limited to Shakespeare’s comedies, it might barely make the top five. Still for some reason, it’s a perennial favorite of summer Shakespeare in the park productions, lets explore the reasons why.
Here’s what happens. Rosalind is the niece of a Duke who usurped and exiled her father. For a while he tolerated Rosalind, but then one day he decided she had to go too. So Rosalind and Celia –the usurping Duke’s daughter and Rosalind’s cousin/BFF –disguise themselves –Rosalind passing herself off as a boy –and run away. Meanwhile, Orlando –the young nobleman Rosalind has fallen for —is fed up with his brother’s mistreatment and runs away too. They all wind up in the Forest of Arden and encounter hippies. (Did I mention Mysterium Theatre sets the play in the 60s? Or it might be Mysterium thinks people from Shakespeare’s time dressed in and listened to music from that decade. I’m not sure which). Anyway, everyone ends up falling in love with or hating one another, and it’s up to Rosalind to straighten out this love dodecahedron.
It’s a bit confusing. The politics make no sense at all. (Okay, maybe that’s the most realistic part of the play). Luckily –when the show dives deep into the romance –the plot becomes a lot clearer.
I’m not a purist, so I’m all for Shakespeare being set in different time periods or adding anachronistic jokes. Out of all the eras Mysterium could’ve picked, the 60s isn’t a bad choice. The subject matter lends itself well to a free love, commune type of environment. The nonsensicalness of the plot can be forgiven due to (nearly) all the characters being high. There were times when the music added to the comedy. The impromptu rendition of “With A Little Help From My Friends” was nice. The wrestling scene set to Creedance Clearwater’s “Bad Moon Rising” was one of the best moments. However, the 60s elements really didn’t add any deeper meaning or resonance to the show. They could’ve picked a different time period or kept it Elizabethan, and I probably would’ve enjoyed it just as much. The updated setting made not knowing much about the play beforehand a weakness.
Director/Actor Eric Modyman succeeds in pulling out quality performances from his actors. He brought along his The Importance of Being Earnest castmates Chelsea Caracoza and Hailey Buck. All three give groovy performances. However, I wish Buck had been given more to do. The rest of the cast is enjoyable to watch as well. Sound was an issue, making it very difficult to hear what they’re saying at parts.
As You Like It is a lot of fun. It has good characters, a good action moment or two, and some great lines. This is the play with the “All the world’s a stage” speech. Cameron Moore (Jaques) performs it very well. Hearing one of the most moving and timeless speeches ever written in its entirety is a thrill.
Sidenote: Seating is provided, but the audience is free to bring their chairs. Picnicking is encouraged, and a prize is given to those who bring the best picnic. Concessions are still available at the La Habra Depot Theatre.
August 15 – 23
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